«I have the power. I am in control.» Those are both traditional expressions of authority. What does its generous variation sound like?
Authority «in action» often has the potential to leave a bitter aftertaste. Someone may challenge a person’s authority. The person exercising power might not even feel good about it. And how a rule is being enforced on others is undoubtedly a question of style.
Authoritarian or autocratic leadership is normally equated with selfish intentions. The only reason Leonardo di Caprio never got blamed for his «I am the king of the world» statement was because it was clear he would have never been able to exercise his authority anyway.
It becomes a whole new ball game with utterly dire consequences when Donald Trump raises his forefinger and says that «his authority is total».
A couple of years ago, Priya Parker coined the term «generous authority» in her inspiring book The Art of Gathering. What is so different about that form of authority?
«Generous authority is imposing in a way that serves your guests.» A host’s objective in exercising her authority is «to protect, equalize and connect her guests».
Hence, it is not about you. No need to make yourself look more important, to install yourself on the throne of authority. The person holding power sees herself as a servant and not a tyrant.
Even if you fully incorporated that approach, you would still be offending others. Those without formal authority who are selfish enough to put their own personal interest first. By adopting the principles of generous authority, you accept that particular outcome for the benefit of all others.
It comes down to how much you care about other people, your community, the world around you. So exercise your authority generously. Those who care as much as you do will appreciate greatly.
When it comes to the famous last words, who would be better suited to answer the initial question than a well-known and admired authoritarian character: